Robert writes articles about emerging medical discoveries with a focus on the health benefits of natural remedies and ingredients.
What is Chaga Tea?
Chaga tea is a tea that is made by boiling the chaga mushroom. The chaga mushroom is a fungus that grows on the outside bark of birch and poplar trees. It is found in northern forests such as in Canada, Russia, Alaska and parts of Europe.
In appearance the mushroom from which chaga tea is made looks like the blackened stump of where a branch might have fallen off, but in fact it is not part of the tree at all. It is an edible parasitic fungus that grows on birch and poplar trees. It has been used for centuries in Russia to make a medicinal tea by boiling bits of the dried chaga mushroom. Note that the black outside shell of the mushroom is not edible and must be broken off to get at the fleshier middle. The mushroom is traditionally used to make chaga tea, by boiling the inner fleshy part of the growth harvested from birch trees.
The Science Behind Changa Mushrooms
Useful Chaga Resources
- Chaga (Inonotus obliquus) - A Medicinal Fungus
A good description of the chaga as well as how to prepare it to get the most out of its amazing qualities.
- How to Harvest Chaga Mushrooms Yourself
If you are lucky enough to live near a birch forest you can collect and harvest the chaga mushrooms yourself, and save a lot of money.
- Chaga: Why This Fungus is So Good For Us & 3 Delicious Ways to Reap Its Benefits. ~ Catie Joyce
Chaga has been found to have many health benefits, including anti-inflamatory, anti-viral, and anti-septic properties. It’s loaded with antioxidants, which
- Chaga from Russia
A Russian site which sells chaga mushrooms and chaga derived products in large quantities.
Chaga to Treat Cancer
In Russia and parts of eastern Europe, Chaga tea has traditionally been used to treat cancer as well as many other illnesses such as tuberculosis. There is strong anecdotal evidence that the chaga mushroom may in fact fight cancer. Alexander Solzhenitzyn, the Russian novelist who won the Nobel Prize for Literature wrote about his experience with the chaga mushroom while he was being treated for cancer.
In traditional folk medicine, the chaga mushroom tea is given to patients suffering from cancer. The chaga contains many active compounds thought to be beneficial to human health and to help fight cancer. These compounds include betulin, a chemical derived from the Birch tree upon which it grows, as well as polysaccharides and polyphenolic. The mushroom is not toxic but it is very hard, about the consistency of a hard wood, and therefore cannot be digested in its natural state. To access the nutrients practitioners of traditional folk medicine would grind the chaga into a powder and then boil it. The resulting tea would then be administered to the cancer patient.
Making chaga tea is still the most common way of processing the mushroom, however the nutrients can also be extracted by using alcohol or through fermentation. It should be noted that in traditional folk medicine, only the chaga mushrooms that grow on birch trees were believed to be of any benefit in curing cancer; chaga that grows on poplars looks similar but lacks the same nutrients that it extracts from its host birch tree.
Some folk medicine practitioners refer to the tea made from chaga as the "cancer tea" or the "tea for cancer," because of its supposed healing properties
Do Chaga Mushrooms Cure Cancer?
Although traditional folk medicine holds that chaga mushrooms can be used to cure cancer, there are no definitive scientific studies that support this view. Nevertheless, what research has been conducted on these mushrooms suggests that the chaga might hold promise for fighting cancer.
For example, a scientific paper published in 1998 concluded that components found in the chaga mushroom did inhibit cancer growth in the uterus. There is of course a vast difference between inhibiting, or slowing down cancer, and actually curing it. Another study by researchers in Korea tested the effects of chaga mushrooms on treating cancers in mice. The researchers concluded that:
"The results suggest that I. obliquus [the scientific name for Chaga mushrooms] and its compounds in these subfractions isolated from I. obliquus could be used as natural anticancer ingredients in the food and/or pharmaceutical industry." -
-- from, Anticancer activity of subfractions containing pure compounds of Chaga mushroom (Inonotus obliquus) extract in human cancer cells and in Balbc/c mice bearing Sarcoma-180 cells
While these results are promising, they do not prove that drinking chaga tea will cure cancer.
More Chaga Health Benefits
In addition to possibly helping to fight cancer, traditional herbalists as well as emerging science suggests that chaga may:
- act as a general tonic
- improve and strengthen the immune system
- reduce inflammation
- lower blood sugar
- lower blood pressure
If even some of these effects are eventually confirmed through scientific studies, chaga will prove to be a very valuable natural health remedy. Even better, chaga is easy to get and consume. You don't need any special processing to enjoy its health benefits.
How To Harvest Chaga Mushrooms in the Wild
How to Make Chaga Tea
Chaga mushrooms must be processed in order to unlock their beneficial nutrients. They are so hard that you would probably break your teeth if you tried to eat one, and even if you could bite into one, humans lack the necessary digestive enzymes to break down the cell walls of the chaga and unlock its treasury of nutrients. The best way to enjoy the health benefits of chaga is to boil it to make tea, or use commercially produced extracts.
You can buy extracts of chaga made using fermentation or alcohol extraction, or you can acquire chaga mushrooms and make tea with them just like in traditional Russian medicine.
Chaga mushrooms grow in many parts of the United States and Canada, as well as the endless forests of Siberia. You may be able to harvest the mushrooms yourself, but keep in mind that the mushrooms tend to grow high up on the side of trees and chopping them off is no easy task; in fact you will likely have to cut down the whole tree to get at a chaga mushroom. You can also buy dried chaga mushrooms from a number of sources. I have provided links to some sites that sell dried chaga mushrooms.
Once you have acquired the chaga, you can make a tea using the following directions:
- break the chaga mushroom into small pieces or even better grind it into fine particles the consistency of coffee grinds. Dried chaga mushrooms are very hard and you coffee grinder will probably not be up the task, and will jam or even break. I know, this has happened to me. One method is to grind the chaga in a meat grinder, or you can chisel off pieces like you would from a piece of wood. Another way is to grate it with a cheese grater, but this is very hard work and you must be careful that your hand does not slip.
- Once you have obtained at least 2 tablespoons of chaga powder, bring a pot of water to boil. The less water you use, the stronger the tea will be. I like to use about 10 cups of water to 2 tablespoons of chaga, but if you want you can make the tea stronger by using less water.
- lower the heat and simmer the chaga for 1 hour.
- let the water cool to a safe level and then drink.
- You can store any unused portion of the chaga tea in a glass container in your refrigerator. It will usually keep for at least a week
Chaga tea has a fairly pleasant taste but is fairly bland. I don't think that I would drink it except for its supposed beneficial effects, which, by the way go far beyond supposedly curing cancer or other dread diseases. Proponents of this mushroom say that chaga is rich in antioxidants and serves as a general tonic.
Chaga tea and mushrooms have a long tradition of being used as a folk medicine to treat cancer. Modern science is now discovering that traditional remedies often were based on careful observation of how plants affected human health. For example, the modern miracle drug aspirin (tm) which is known to not only relieve pain but in some cases prevent heart attacks, is made using compounds derived from the willow tree. The beneficial uses of the willow tree to relieve pain were actually discovered by the Ancient Greeks, and it is fascinating to see that the greatest of early physicians, Hippocrates, left written records prescribing the willow tree (from which aspirin was developed) as a pain remedy. However, this folk knowledge did not lead to the development of a modern medicine until 1853, when German chemists developed what was to become aspirin.
Certain chemotherapy drugs are derived from plants such as the periwinkle plant (catharanthus rosea), the bark of the Pacific Yew tree (taxus) and from the Asian "Happy Tree" (Camptotheca acuminata). Given this, it is possible that there are other plants and even fungi which contain within them chemicals and compounds which may fight cancer. Chaga mushrooms hold out the promise that they may be one more weapon in the arsenal against this disease. However, nothing in this article should be used as a substitute for competent medical advice. This article about the chaga mushroom and its use in natural or traditional medicine, is not meant to recommend its use. The FDA has not evaluated any of the claims concerning the chaga tea. This article and chaga mushrooms, or any products derived from them, are not meant to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease. I have no control over any sites to which this article links and do not endorse any claims found there.
If you are looking for an alternative treatment to prevent or cure cancer, I wish you good health and much success on your journey to health.
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and does not substitute for diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription, and/or dietary advice from a licensed health professional. Drugs, supplements, and natural remedies may have dangerous side effects. If pregnant or nursing, consult with a qualified provider on an individual basis. Seek immediate help if you are experiencing a medical emergency.
© 2011 Robert P
Robert P (author) from Canada on June 14, 2016:
Yes,the forests of northern Canada and Siberia are both areas that are rich with Chaga mushrrooms. I have heard many anecdotes like the one you mention.
Hector on June 07, 2016:
I live in northern Ontario where chaga is easily available. I know 3 cases of cancer cures. The most remarkable is a man, 18 miles where I live, was given 3 weeks to live; he needed oxygen to breath, because of cancer spread to his lungs. He took chaga tea and cured his cancer. He lived 5 years without cancer. He just died lately of a heart attack.
Robert-C1 on July 20, 2013:
Interesting, but also pretty biased. This article has a bit too much emotion in it, which gets in the way of facts, unfortunately.
- Like, how potent is Chaga tea when compared to a professional (but more expensive) extract ? (answer: very weak ...)
- What are good extracts ?
- How about the Fukushima fallout that makes North American Chaga something to avoid for the coming 30 years ?
- History, tradition, science...
(Discarding the black outer layer, as said in the article, is NOT the way to go - this layer has an enormous amount of anti-oxidants and polyphenols in it... )
Those looking for actual unbiased information I want to recommend this extremely extensive monograph (but easy to read):
George Walters on December 15, 2012:
I have used Chaga for treating my cancer now along with Dandelion Roots for over a year now. I did not take the chemo, radiation or removal procedures that are out there today. I am so happy that I took it upon myself and sleeked out what is there, for everyone through Nature. If one so chooses to look. One should take the blinders off and look around. Help is in most cases is just outside your door. Merry Christmas Folks!
Robert P (author) from Canada on September 21, 2011:
@naturalsolutions, I wish I could say that it is proven science. The problem with verifying whether these traditional cures and folk medicines actually works is that the present funding model does not support adequate research into compounds that cannot be patented. The fact that these possible cures are already in the public domain means that there would be no return on investment for any drug company that researched them because they could not patent them. They might work a miracle cure, but the drug companies will ignore them in favor of medicines that they can patent.
However I think that there is certainly cause to be optimistic about the effectiveness of chaga mushrooms.
A Little TRUTH on September 21, 2011:
Yes, I get a chuckle out of the drug adds also. The salt water is a great idea, or maybe just a walk on the beach at the waters edge.
naturalsolutions on September 21, 2011:
If it is proven by science well i guess chaga tea is the answer for the problem of many people suffering from cancer. Very nice hub, greatly appreciated.
Robert P (author) from Canada on September 19, 2011:
Thank you for all the comments.
@RachelleWilliams - I think that we have to respect the folk wisdom and natural medicine. If people have believed for centuries that chaga cures cancer, it is something that must be investigated.
@mvillecat - nature is a great treasure house of cures and useful compounds. Who knows how many medicines are waiting to be discovered.
@A Little TRUTH - it's amazing just how dangerous many prescription drugs are. For example, I have seen ads for prescription drugs to cure toe fungus, and then the list of possible adverse effects goes on for a mile and includes liver damage and even death. Personally I would keep the toe fungus, or better yet soak the toe in salt water which would probably kill the fungus but not my liver. I think in many cases natural remedies hold great promise. I hope that chaga lives up to its reputation.
A Little TRUTH on September 19, 2011:
Very useful information, thanks for sharing it. Got to get some chaga!
The video makes an excellent point about how Big Pharma will take a natural cure, isolate the active ingredient, patent and create a drug. The huge profits outweigh the long list of dangerous side effects, and also the fact that the natural food or herb with all its synergistic components works much better. You give a good example of aspirin being derived from willow tree bark.
Also, interesting point in the video (paraphrased) ‘Caution: chaga may reduce the “need” for drugs.’!
The disclaimer statements in the above article apply to these comments as if fully stated here.
Catherine Dean from Milledgeville, Georgia on September 18, 2011:
My mom has always said for every disease there is a natural cure. I believe her! Thanks for educating me on this incredible natural rememdy.
Rachelle Williams from Tempe, AZ on September 18, 2011:
Thank you for educating me about the anti-cancer properties of Chaga Tea. Alternative medicine holds the key to preventative methods for disease, and perhaps even cures to some disease. We have a long way to go in the search for a cure for cancer, and naturalistic methods are proving to be very exciting. I wish I had a hundred years to live to see what comes next... Great Hub, I voted up.